As Ears To The House has previously reported more than a few times, priorities at Defected are slowly changing under its new ownership. And as much as the company claims to be flying the flag for underground house music, there’s no denying a more commercial mindset is starting to play out.

Hence the decision to announce the lineup for their signature Croatia 2023 festival before the mixer had even had a chance to cool down after this year’s event. In many ways, this makes business sense – there’s fewer better opportunities to sell tickets to a future event than at the end of an already successful one. Defected get no criticism from us for using this time old strategy.

However, it does show how things are changing. During the Simon Dunmore era, there was usually a delay in making the announcement – and new overlord Wez Saunders has clearly tightened things up. But once you get past the admittedly very nice design of this poster, there’s something you might just notice…

Are we the only ones getting déjà vu reading this lineup? Yes, we know it’s a phase one release and that it’s not the full lineup – and yes, keeping some of the names back until nearer the time isn’t an unusual practice. But doesn’t this lineup look terribly similar to the one from this year?

Here’s the 2022 phase one lineup for comparison…

Elsewhere, we notice the likes of Carl Craig and DJ Spen have been upgraded from phase two to one this year whilst names such as John Summit and Mousse T don’t appear on phase one this time around. Ears To The House has previously spoken about how 2022 has essentially been a year for established names to preserve their positions after the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

We can only assume Saunders agrees with our analysis, such is the frankly conservative nature of this lineup. When are festivals going to start taking a chance with the kind of new names needed to give this scene the shot in the arm it needs? Or is 2023 going to be yet another year of trying to claw back losses by sticking to the same old names?

The initial signs aren’t encouraging…